Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Twenty years ago, world leaders gathered in Durban, South Africa with a unified vision of creating a new world - a world free from both racial discrimination and bigotry. The outcome was the adoption of the historic Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to fight against injustice, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Despite this milestone achievement, racism continues to be rampant throughout the world. Racism is an affront to human dignity, a threat to our unity and our shared development goals and is also a direct threat to the international solidarity upon which we all depend. Solidarity, common understanding, and a shared recognition that we are, intrinsically, one another's equals, are necessary preconditions to being in a position to confront the global challenges we face today.

Twenty years later, we take this moment to observe a moment of silence to solemnly celebrate the progress we have achieved in the past, and also to critically reflect on the enormous task ahead of us to effectively overcome racial injustice.

Mr. Secretary-General,

Our future depends on our collective commitment to unify the world despite the differences among us. Today, let us renew our vow to create a new future for our children and our grandchildren - a world free from racism, a world of equality. Our common future depends on the acceptance of those different than us and our strength lies in unity in diversity. Our fight against racism and xenophobia must begin at every home, in every community. We all know too well that communities are most susceptible to fractures when we are weak- weak to bear witness and to empathize with the suffering of others.

Secretary-General Guterres warned us last year that the COVID-19 pandemic had unleashed "a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” and urged the world to "strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate." We have seen persecution, exclusion, and discrimination all emanate in the wake of the pandemic. Amidst the devastating consequences of COVID, vigilance is required to ensure that fear does not turn our people against one another. The instability and havoc wreaked by climate change will also test our bonds of solidarity. Racism and intolerance thrive in instability and inequality, and we must make concerted efforts to prevent these maladies from disrupting our harmony. If allowed to spread unchecked, they will only exacerbate the societal devastation wrought by the pandemic, our changing natural environment and other challenges that we will undoubtedly face.

Mr. Secretary-General,

My country, the Maldives recognizes the importance of combatting racial discrimination and intolerance in our efforts against terrorism and violent extremism domestically. Our “whole-of-society” approach, aims to build a more cohesive society and seeks to strengthen and empower more resilient communities. It works towards addressing miscommunication and stigma through positive messaging for solidarity, while enhancing inclusive dialogue to counter the rhetoric of hate speech, xenophobia and related intolerances.

We also recognize the rights of the victims of terrorism and civil war seeking safety and security in different parts of the world. Sadly, often their journey to safety ends at a crossroads because of the cruelty of racism and racial discrimination - that’s the reality of life of a refugee. Empathy, tolerance and hope give people in unfortunate situations a reason to survive. We must commit to provide a safe environment for every member of the human family. Our common humanity demands that we treat these displaced victims of hate and bigotry with dignity and respect.

Mr. Secretary-General,

Intolerance finds fertile ground in inequality; therefore, ensuring racism does not take root and fester requires us to ensure broad and inclusive development. We must ensure that we share economic prosperity and ensure no one, and no country is left behind. The Maldives, like many other small island developing states, is extremely vulnerable to external shocks. A fact of which we are sharply reminded by the current pandemic. In order to combat inequality and the resulting racism and other intolerances, the world must focus on alleviating debt burdens and providing technical assistance to vulnerable nations to ensure that they can continue to elevate their communities through inclusive sustainable development.

Fundamentally, the purpose of our coming together is to reaffirm our call for unity and equality. All humans deserve nothing less than respect and an acknowledgement of their fundamental dignity. This matters not only for their self-worth, but also for the functioning of our societies. Mutual respect and acceptance compel unity. It is only unity and political will that will steer us successfully through the daunting global crises bearing upon us.

I thank you.